Hail-damage hints can save you headache
Following recent storms in the area, some homeowners throughout Houston have experienced significant hail damage and are seeking assistance to repair their homes Unfortunately, unscrupulous storm chasers tend to take advantage during these times, and if your home is damaged, you will want to make sure repairs are made swiftly and that you avoid any scams. With hurricane season starting soon, too, it is especially important to be aware of potential home repair scams.
The Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas offers these tips for homeowners seeking repairs:
Check out any business thoroughly. If a business approaches you offering to repair your home, ask for their contact information and allow yourself time to fully research the business, check for references, and review their BBB report at BBBHouston.org to determine if there are any issues of concern.
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Inform your policy holder of the damage and determine what they will and will not cover and any requirements for your claim. Be sure to document the damage to your property or your car and take photos if possible. If you are staying at a temporary location, keep any receipts for lodging or food as some of these costs may be covered by your insurance, depending on what your policy allows.
Avoid high-pressure sales pitches. Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Be proactive in selecting a company and not re-active to sales solicitations. Make temporary repairs if necessary. For major repairs, take time to shop around and get three or four estimates based on the same specifications and materials.
Be wary of door-to-door solicitors. Avoid hiring anyone on the spot without doing research on the business first. Ask for identification and check that the contractor’s vehicle has signs or markings on it with the business name and phone number. An out-of-state license plate may be a red flag to investigate the company further. There are many reputable roofers to choose from, but be careful allowing someone you do not know inspect your roof. An unethical contractor may even create damage to get work.
Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. It should specify the work to be done, the materials to be used and the price breakdown. Any promises made orally should be written into the contract, including warranties on materials or labor. Be sure their name, address, and phone number along with a start and end date for the work is included in contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety; don’t sign a blank contract and a copy of the signed contract is to be given to you at time of signature. Always remember, in Texas, you have three days to cancel any contract for a sale made at your home.
Verify if the business is insured. Once you have found a contractor, request proof of a current insurance certificate covering workman’s compensation, property damage and personal liability.
Never pay in full for all repairs in advance, and do not pay cash. While many companies may ask for a deposit, BBB suggests that no more than one-third of the job be paid up front. Pay by credit card, if possible; you may have additional protection if there’s a problem.
Check with BBBHouston.org or call our phone line at 713-868-9500 for more information.
The Better Business Bureau is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Visit www.bbbhouston.org or call 713-868-9500. Leah Napoliello is senior director of Investigative Services with the BBB of Greater Houston and South Texas. Send questions to Leah Napoliello, Better Business Bureau, 1333 West Loop South, Suite 1200, Houston, TX 77027, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your mailing address and phone number.